Archive for the ‘Wisconsin’ Category

Heart of the North: Spooner Rodeo in Wisconsin

July 13, 2010

Giddyup, folks–it’s rodeo season, and although the Heart of the North Spooner Rodeo is over, there’s plenty more action to be found this summer throughout these United States!

In Spooner this past weekend, the buckin’ was the main event, and we weren’t disappointed. Here are a few shots of the bareback boys on their broncos:


The competition was fierce, since the fellers were after cash prizes.

The audience was mesmerized, including this little cowboy kid:

Calf ropin’ was next, with cowboys in hot pursuit of their li’l dogies. They have to rope ’em, jump off their mounts, wrestle the calf to the ground and then tie three legs. The calf has to stay tied for six seconds, which is an eternity, if you’re the ropin’ cowboy! It’s hard to see in this shot, but he’s using two ropes: a lasso in the air and another in the teeth.

Even the little tykes got a piece of the action: mutton bustin’ is always a blast to watch. Little buckaroos as young as five years old don their bike helmets and grab a couple handfuls of wool, each trying to be the champ.

First he’s on:

Then he’s off:

But he’s still happy!

At the end of the night, there’s always a dance–this year’s band was Ellie May Kay and the Boogie Junction Band. This here cowgirl enjoyed the music!

Here’s a website that will hook you up with the lowdown on upcoming rodeos, now through September, throughout the Midwest: And if you want to check out the Heart of the North Spooner Rodeo next year, the dates are July 7-9, 2011.


Obama Town Hall Meeting Racine 06/30/10

July 1, 2010

Have you ever attended a live speech by a sitting president? No matter what your politics, you’ll never forget the experience. I’ve seen a few political candidates speak at various events, but yesterday’s town hall meeting in Racine, Wisconsin was so much more…well…presidential!

We parked about five blocks away, so we wouldn’t get stuck in a traffic jam. Thirteen hundred people had free tickets for the meeting, held at Memorial Hall in Racine. There were vendors selling political paraphernalia, volunteers escorting those who needed assistance, refreshment carts, lots of television news cameras, and police sharpshooters on the roof. It was, I must admit, rather exciting.

               Our tickets were to the right of the stage, in the “cut shot” section, meaning that when the cameras focused on the audience, we were likely to be filmed. The hall filled up, and a few minutes before President Obama entered, Governor Doyle and Milwaukee’s Mayor Barrett (who, by the way, is running for governor) took their seats.

At the last minute, a handful of photographers was allowed onto the floor directly in front of the podium. They all pointed their cameras at a curtain just right of the stage, directly in front of our seats! Finally, a presidential aide strode purposefully onto the stage and attached the presidential seal onto the podium–which actually gave me goosebumps–and then President Obama entered, shaking hands all around.

Here’s a link to the entire event:

I can’t possibly cover everything that was in the speech, but here are some of the issues addressed: the ongoing legislation battle about new financial regulations, whether or not the stimulus package was successful, efforts to further our economic recovery, and assistance for college students. In his opening remarks, Obama made no bones about calling out his “friends on the other side of the aisle” for both contributing to the financial meltdown, and holding up efforts to tighten regulations so that it doesn’t happen again. Hmmm, must be coming up on election year…

In any case, whether you’re Republican, Democrat or independent, it’s true that you can move a lot closer to being involved with what’s happening in our world by simply listening to our leaders. It’s a good first step to knowing what the issues are; then it’s up to you to do further research and decide where you stand.

Pecha Kucha Milwaukee

May 12, 2010

Twenty slides, 20 seconds each. That’s all you get to explain your idea when it’s Pecha Kucha night.

Now happening in more than 300 cities across the globe, Pecha Kucha (Japanese for “chatter”) is a hot, swirling current of ideas and new approaches to life and work. The process unleashes the minds of innovative thinkers and provides a non-threatening stage for emerging artists and other original types to showcase their work. From taverns to trade shows, presenters—each with 20 slides and 6 minutes, 40 seconds of talk-time—speak on virtually any topic. Simple idea…but very compelling.

The process was dreamed up in Tokyo in 2003 by architects Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, to facilitate concise presentations for their designers. The events, now held worldwide, provide a setting for intelligent people to present their ideas—for free—to an audience. To watch ten presentations in Milwaukee, audience members each pay $10–the money goes toward the Pecha Kucha non-profit organization, for website upkeep and such.

Last night’s set of presentations at the Sugar Maple bar in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood was an artsy mix of creative exploration, cultural celebration and seemingly impossible mathematical equations. Topics ranged from building out-of-this world bicycles with disadvantaged kids to exploring Puerto Rican heritage to creating an architectural masterpiece out of clothespins and electrical wire. The audience leaned forward intently, laughed, shook their heads and learned. Oh, and they drank beer. Then they networked with presenters afterward to discover more about their ideas.  Here’s the website–check out a Pecha Kucha night near you:

Devil’s Lake State Park

April 29, 2010


This is the sign you see while you’re waiting for the state’s only free ferry, the Merrimac Ferry. Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait long–it takes only about 10 minutes or so for the ferry to unload, make its way back across Lake Wisconsin (part of the Wisconsin River) and open the gates for more passengers. We were on our way to Devil’s Lake State Park, so we had our pull-behind camper with us. It was a tight fit–I mean inches–but we made it.

This time of year, Devil’s Lake State Park is gorgeous. There are very few people, lots of birds are migrating through, and the trees are just beginning to leaf out. Here’s a shot of Parfrey’s Glen, which is a nice, relatively level stroll of about .7 miles.

If you want something more challenging, try the East Bluff–you’ll have to climb, but the views are worth it. Unfortunately, the day we hiked it, I left my camera battery in the camper, where it was happily recharging as I lugged around the camera and two heavy lenses. Drat.

We also checked out the Balanced Rock trail (descending from the East Bluff), then walked around the lake and followed the Tumbled Rock trail back to our campsite on the north end of the lake. Balanced Rock is not for the faint of heart–you’ll climb roughly 1,100 feet, on a huge pile of rocks. One misstep and you’re a goner. Tumbled Rock is an interesting trail–flat, but it feels a little bit like you’re on the moon, with unusual boulders on every side.

At night, the campfires dotted the grounds and we spent the evening listening to crackling flames and taking in the view. My legs hurt from all that climbing…but it was worth it.

Charro Restaurante in Brookfield, Wisconsin

April 6, 2010

Except for the devil-in-disguise feel of it, the movie Charro was a bomb–I’m sorry, Elvis; you know I love you–but I can’t help falling in love with the two restaurants of the same name. I went to Charro ( in downtown Milwaukee a while back and enjoyed it, but this visit to the Brookfield location was even better.  It has the same casual, sleek atmosphere, but felt a bit more personal and friendly.

First of all, when we walked in, we were greeted immediately by a smiling bartender. The manager offered samples of tequila–two different kinds–to help us with our libation selection. I wanted to make the world go away, to get it off, get it off, my shoulders, so I really enjoyed his pour of Oro Azul. I’m developing an affinity for reposado tequilas.

Are ya looking for trouble? The Spicy Scallops were true to their name–covered with a hot Serrano pepper rub and served with corn, butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds and cilantro ragout. I would choose it again–it was truly burning love. My dinner companion chose Fideo, which is the least Latin item on the menu, but also a winner: pasta served with chorizo, chicken, asparagus and manchego cheese. 

But the thing I like best about Charro is the decor–red and black, with barn-salvaged beams, and brooding religious overtones–crosses everywhere. On the walls are lyrics from the King. It gives me fever.

Charro Restaurante

17800 W. Bluemound Rd.

Brookfield, WI 53045


Milwaukee Historic Bowling Alleys

March 29, 2010

Anyone out there a bowler? I’m working on a book titled Milwaukee’s Historic Bowling Alleys, and I’m looking for photos and stories about events that occurred or interesting people who bowled in Milwaukee alleys pre-1960. Please send me an email at: If I use your photos, I’ll give you credit in the book.

On Saturday I took some photos of a few signs from some of the remaining historic lanes in town:

Opened in 1950, American Serb Hall is still going strong. They were setting up for a tournament when I was there this Saturday.

Bob-E-Lanes is one of the oldest in town, dating to 1923. The six lanes inside were run as Pyszczynski’s Alleys, then Romie’s Alleys, and became Bob-E-Lanes in 1976.

The 10 lanes at Ed’s South Milwaukee Arcade have been challenging bowlers since 1923.

And there are plenty more: Holler House, Falcon Bowl, Landmark Lanes, Bay View Bowl, etc….what makes all of these special is not just their age, but the fact that they represent the stronghold Milwaukee had on bowling during the past century. Sadly, with the merge of the various bowling organizations (ABC, WIBC, YABA and USA Bowling) into one organization: the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) in 2005, and the subsequent move of the USBC to Dallas a few years later, we’re at risk of being left behind, with nothing left but memories. I moved to Milwaukee in 1983, and since then–amazingly–49 bowling alleys have closed their doors. Forty-nine.

So get out there and bowl–let’s keep the sport alive in Milwaukee! And email me if you have pictures!

Strange Sculptures: Wisconsin

March 22, 2010

I admit it: I have a few quirks. One of them is a fascination with large, wacky sculptures…the freaky-deakier the better.

Our lovely state has a number of mega-sculptures gracing the highways, tucked into almost-out-of-sight corners or standing guard in the forest. The unfortunate vehicle at the top of this page is buried in front of a home in Cudahy.

This funky feathered friend is perched at the back of the parking lot of his namesake, Andrea’s Red Rooster in Waukesha. Inside the building, you’ll find a comfortable tavern/restaurant with good burgers and a roadhouse feel.

Here’s a carefully crafted creature. I call him Scrap Metal Man. He lives on Highway 13, in Adams County.


You may have seen this blaze-orange behemoth where Interstate 94 meets Highway 54 in Black River Falls. But did you know that he’s legendary? Here’s his website:

…and this is his little buddy, just 100 yards away. He’s one of several Mighty Mice that can be spotted in this perpetual state of cheese.

This fella’s all dressed up and ready to swing…his axe. He stares out at Highway B all day long, not too far from our northwoods cabin in Washburn County…hope he never comes alive at night…

I’ll tell you about my other quirks later on! Meanwhile, for the mother of all metal sculptures (50 ft. tall!), Forevertron, check out this story about his creator, Dr. Evermore, in Roadside America: Forevertron is listed as the top weird place to have a wedding on Midwedst,

Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism 2010 (wigcot)

March 16, 2010

The Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism (wigcot) 2010 was held at Milwaukee’s Midwest Airlines Center yesterday and today. Here are some quotes from the speakers: 

Futurist David Zach, on technology: “Think about how many things in your life have been defined or transformed by people who were college dropouts.” (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, etc.) I love it. 

David Sheatsley, Dir. of Marketing Research for the U.S. Travel Association,, on today’s travel patterns: “In the U.S., people would rather drive than fly.” Dude, no doubt. I concur. Folks are taking shorter vacations, closer to home. 

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle,“We’re launching a new tourism initiative called “Meetings Mean Business For Wisconsin.” Business leaders, take note: Wisconsin is the perfect place to hold meetings and major conventions. It has terrific attractions, it’s not super-pricey, it’s got a good mix of nostalgia and new, we have world-class chefs, and our arts community is particularly strong. And we’ll treat you right, too. 

Daniel Burrus, Burrus Research , technology forecaster and author of Technotrends, “You need technology mentors. Who’s a technology mentor? A kid. You need a kid. If you don’t have one, rent one.” Burrus made me realize I need to hire an intern to teach me everything he/she knows about social media. Now. 

Dave Mitchell, corporate leadership trainer and author of Live and Learn or Die Stupid “We think that if we don’t immediately connect with somebody, there’s something wrong with them.” He continues on to explain that each of us leans in the direction of a personality type (Jungian-style): Romantic, Warrior, Expert and Mastermind–we need to keep these types in mind when working with tourism customers.  

And my favorite quote, from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett,“And please make sure that, before you leave, town, you spend all your money here.” I’m smiling, Mayor! 

Finally, I just can’t resist including this picture of the permanent security guard in the Midwest Airlines Center lobby…he’s so permanent, he NEVER moves a muscle. He’s a lifelike creation by Bay View artist Marc Sijan, I overheard a lady tell someone today that she asked him where the Hilton was! 

Marc Sijan Midwest Airlines Center Security Guard

Winter Sports in Wisconsin

January 5, 2010

Even on the coldest days, hardy Wisconsin Up-Northers are outside, kicking up the snow and getting busy with sports activities. Here are some things I spotted happening on Long Lake last weekend (Hint: if you’re looking at this through an email, you may need to go right to the blog to see the pics!):

Cross country skiing is a great way to get somewhere relatively quickly–much faster than walking. Plus, it’s a great workout. This gal’s skiing on Long Lake, but you can also head over to the Nordic Cross Country Ski Trail, off Highway B in Washburn Country, between Highways 53 and 70.

Wow, somebody really worked on this angel. Do you think it looks like me? No???? Come on…

Fireworks are always big around the holidays–folks shoot ’em off over the lakes. Just take care to keep all of your digits intact. This beauty was part of a New Year’s Eve fireworkstacular. 

Here’s a happy ATVr, heading toward trail 140 in Washburn County. The trail takes you past small lakes, through logging country. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a white squirrel–hard to pick out in the snow, but worth the trouble.

Finally, the sport I love most of all: ice bowling. All you need is an old set of pins and a ball, although some people use frozen turkeys–a bloody waste of a bird, I say.

The only problem with ice bowling is that you have to either talk someone into setting the pins for you, or be willing to set your own.

Finally, here’s a recipe for a great hot drink to celebrate coming in from the cold:

Heat a cup of coffee with 2 cups of eggnog. Pour in 2-3 shots of whiskey and serve in mugs with whipped cream on top. Mmmm.

Milwaukee Hotels

December 22, 2009

Twenty years ago, you could roll a bowling ball down Wisconsin Avenue on a Saturday afternoon and never see a strike—a pedestrian, that is—unless, of course, it was the week of Summerfest. Now, plenty of visitor-friendly things to see and do make this little city a gem: Great Lakes Distillery, Discovery World, the Third Ward and the Riverwalk, for example.

Following suit, several classic hotels have been polished to a new luster, while the newest addition, The Iron Horse Hotel, is revved up and rolling, just across from the brand new Harley-Davidson Museum.

For the best in Milwaukee lodging, try one of these properties on your next visit:

At the InterContinental, you can be one of the Beautiful People, sipping an Orange Lychee Martini at the Zen Den, the sexiest, most elegant cocktail lounge in town. The only lights in the place come from the alabaster bar and tabletops, which glow mysteriously from within.

Hotel Metro is a sleek, contemporary sleep-spot, listed on Travel & Leisure’s Top 500. Splurging on a Master Suite means you’ll have extras like a wet bar, a towel heater and spa jets in the oversized tub. The best part, though, is the rooftop spa, with its relaxing waterfall and outdoor fireplace.

The Ambassador Hotel, a lovely art-deco style property, was built in 1927 and refurbished, top to bottom, in 2005. The lobby gleams with stunning period fixtures, and most oversized rooms have flat-screen TVs, complimentary Aveda products and plush robes. The on-site gourmet restaurant and lounge, Envoy, offers terrific food and drinks under the glow of sparkling glass chandeliers.

County Clare offers 4-poster beds in charming green and ivory rooms, and a filling Irish breakfast each morning. The pub on the main floor has lovely stained glass windows and specialty tap beers such as Black Velvet (Guinness and Strongbow). The menu, meanwhile, offers help for the hungry with country classics like shepherd’s pie and meatloaf. There’s live Irish entertainment most weekends.

The newest—and quite possibly coolest—lodging is The Iron Horse Hotel, right across the river from the Harley-Davidson Museum. They cater to bikers—with underground cycle parking and boot benches in the rooms—and to anyone else who wants a boutique hotel with a sexy, sophisticated edge. Here’s a peek at the artsy minibar in one of the rooms:

Start your evening at the two-story cocktail lounge, Branded, and then move the party to recently opened Smythe, the on-site restaurant, for some upscale comfort food. 2010 promises the opening of the downstairs Boiler Room, which will  provide an adults-only hot-tubbing experience, complete with a lounge for relaxing with cocktails and conversation.

The Brumder Mansion is a beautifully restored Wisconsin Avenue mansion-turned-bed-and-breakfast, with seven working fireplaces–and a live-performance theatre in the basement, which was completely restored by new owners this year.

Finally, the 115-year-old Pfister Hotel, a downtown Victorian masterpiece, continually self-renews; the latest improvement is WELL Spa, on the ground floor. This most luxurious spa in Milwaukee offers treatments with enticing names such as Marine Extreme, Orient Express and Hammam Shower Experience.